I Sing More Than I Talk

and I talk a lot.

I received a message from a friend earlier today encouraging me to record a video of me singing and upload it on YouTube. I love singing, but I’ve never found an outlet that allowed me to perform what I’d like in public. I’ve sung a few times at various churches, and now I’ve joined the worship team at my church, but this limits me to worship music. I want to sing all kinds of songs including jazz, r&b, folk, and whatever else I get stuck in my head.

So why not start posting videos on YouTube? Who cares if they are not professional quality? In my experience, even artists that create for themselves are not fulfilled unless they’re sharing their work and receiving feedback. Art is a soul cry that desires to be heard and recognized by others. YouTube is a great way to be heard. Now every time I wish I could perform, I’ll channel that energy into a new video and post it here.

Hopefully, I won’t get blocked due to copyright infringement…

Beck

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Happy New Year!

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It’s 2015! It’s been one year since I’ve started this blog! Although I haven’t posted every week, I think it’s been a good record of 2014. I’m excited to see what 2015 brings me and my family. I’m looking forward to seeing my sister Rachel again and Sarah and Andrew’s wedding in June! In the spirit of new beginnings, I, like most people, have some resolutions goals that I want to accomplish this year:

  1. Get a better job.

I may have just gotten a raise (a whole 50 cents), but that doesn’t change the fact that I’m working at a job that doesn’t pertain to my future career. The transferable skills I’m learning are minimal at best. I need a job that will help me develop my administrative and training skills. I’m hoping to find something in Raleigh, but the FSU interview is still to come.

  1. Be smarter with my money.

I’m terrible with what little income I have. I saved close to zero dollars last year and spend WAY too much eating out, which isn’t healthy either. I need to save for graduate school and for Sarah’s wedding, not to mention my car needs some work done. I think a mechanic said something about my breaks two years ago…oops. Not only will being wiser with my money help me in the future, when I have actual bills, but help me learn self-discipline, which is arguably my greatest life struggle.

  1. Work towards a healthier lifestyle.

This goal includes me getting health insurance, losing weight and eating healthier. I’ve been without health coverage for about four years. The Affordable Care Act didn’t really make health care affordable for me either. But, it would be really nice if I could develop a relationship with a doctor that can help me take preventative measures so I don’t get diabetes or hypothyroidism (which runs in my family). Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is part of this, which is why I didn’t wait until January to join a gym.

  1. Continue my education.

You all know that I’ve applied to graduate school. Things are looking good in that direction and I hope to enter a program in the fall. What you probably don’t know is that I hardly ever read anything other than novels, unless I’m doing research. Many of my friends read literature that is more informative or analytic and written for the masses. “The World is Flat” and “Freakonomics” are two popular examples of this genre. I want to read more of this kind of literature because it will help me continue my informal education and allow me to explore some of my interests separate from novels. I won’t say it won’t be difficult, but I am excited to check off some of these books I’ve wanted to read for years.

Those are my big four and I’ve already started working towards all of them, except maybe the money thing. #retailtherapy. I do have some other smaller goals like joining a church, writing more fiction and taking violin lessons but that’s mostly creative.

Want to see my book list for this year? :)

JAN        How to Read a Book by Mortimer J Adler

FEB        Meet the Real Jesus by John Blanchard

The Reason for God by Timothy Keller

MAR       Mere Christianity by CS Lewis

APR       Radical Womanhood by Carolyn McCulley

When Bad Christians Happen to Good People by Dave Burchett

MAY      Toxic Charity by Robert D Lupton

That the World May Know by James Dawes

JUNE     35 Dumb Things Well-Intentioned People Say by Maura Cullen

Whistling Vivaldi by Claude M Steele

JULY     Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Tatum

AUG      Lean In for Graduates by Sheryl Sandberg

The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor

SEP      The Medici Effect by Frans Johansson

OCT      The Book Nobody Read by Owen Gingerich

NOV      How to Read Lit by Thomas Foster

DEC      Catch up month! You know I’m going to need one.

What are your goals for 2015? Whatever they are, good luck! :)

Cheers,
Beck

Themes That Have Been Running Through My Mind

Don’t praise me.

I know it’s because of my insecurities with my body, but I hate it when people praise my efforts to lose weight. When I come home from the gym and my mom says, “I’m so proud of you for going to the gym!” I cringe and don’t respond. I don’t tell people when I’ve lost weight because I don’t want to hear them say, “Wow! Good for you! I’m so proud of you.” I know it’s strange, but I hate it because it brings attention to my large body and the fact that I need to lose weight. I’ve spent a lot of energy trying to ignore this fact, and a person bringing it up, even in a positive way, bothers me a lot. People generally wouldn’t tell a thin person they were proud of them for going to the gym, so why tell me? Because I really need to go to the gym, right? But everyone needs to be active to be healthy, not just people who are overweight. When people praise me for working out, they think they are encouraging me to continue a healthy lifestyle by recognizing my efforts, but I’m not doing this for them or for their recognition. I’m doing this for me and my future. I don’t need or want their praise, especially if they are treating me differently than others (i.e. thinner people) who are behaving the same way. It’s not that I’m ungrateful for their concern or affection; I just don’t enjoy receiving that kind of attention.

How you spend your day is how you spend your life.

This theme was inspired by me watching the last Hobbit film this week, which wasn’t completely disappointing. After watching the movie, I remembered how obsessed I was with Lord of the Rings when I was in middle and high school. I devoted so much of my time and energy reading and learning about everything that had to do with LOTR and Tolkien’s universe. For what reason? Having an encyclopedic knowledge of LOTR made me happy. It was all I talked about and all I watched; it brought me into a community, it entertained, inspired, and motivated me. But in the end, this obsession didn’t really do me any good besides encourage a love of reading. Now I can’t help but think, what if I devoted the same amount of time and energy to something more worthwhile? Not my career or education, but Jesus Christ? What if I had an encyclopedic knowledge of Him? what He said and did? What if I made Him my inspiration and motivation? joined a community just as obsessed with Him as I was? How would my life be different? It wouldn’t just make me happy, it would give me real joy. It’s not quite as easy as all that. I need to work through my misgivings concerning the church and my own stubborn resistance to Him that we all share. But, reading and learning are things that I enjoy doing, and it’s not so much that I don’t find Jesus interesting as I’ve been desensitized by a lifetime of hearing the same standardized sermons over and over. So that’s where I’ll start, reading.

I need a new job.

On a much more practical level, I’ve been thinking and rethinking my situation and decided to seriously look for a better job. Earning minimum wage is terrible; earning minimum wage in a retail position is not worth it. I had a bad experience last week when I was sick and needed to call out. But even before last week, I applied to a handful of temp agencies in Raleigh. So far, I have not heard anything from them. I’ve also applied and have an interview for an AmeriCorps VISTA position at Fayetteville State University. To be honest, it’s not paying much more than what I’m making now, but it is in my career field and would help me develop my professional skills. There are two things that prevent me from being super excited about this job. 1) It’s an hour away from Raleigh so a lot of time and money would be spent commuting. 2) It requires a one year commitment that I may or may not be able to complete. The job runs from Feb 2015 to Feb 2016, but I’m planning to start grad school in the fall of 2015. I would be willing to defer enrollment for a semester (which would take me to Jan 2016), but an entire year? That’s a long time. Since nothing is set in stone for grad school, I’m going to the interview next week, but I don’t know what to do! My gut feeling, and my Mom, tells me to let this job go and attend grad school this fall, but what if I give it up and don’t get in? At the same time, I can’t stand the thought of working at Starbucks for another eight months before grad school.

I know things will work themselves out. In the meantime, I’ll just bake some cookies.

Merry Christmas!

Beck

November in 800 Words or Less

Where have I been all November?

Happy Halloween! Happy Birthday to me! Happy Thanksgiving! :)

I’ve thought about writing many times this month, but haven’t made the time to do it, partially because I’ve been busy and partially because I’ve been lazy. Getting used to a new work routine that changes every week has not been fun. I do enjoy some things about my job, but I don’t get to do those things very often. I really want to find a better job that will pay me more than minimum wage.

To celebrate my birthday, my sister and best friend went out to dinner and drank wine. I got Caged, which was hilarious. This was followed later that week with a family dinner that was surprisingly pleasant. No one was fighting or drunk, there was an ice cream cake. Success.

Capture

On the 19th, I spoke at a Faces of Homelessness panel at Elon, my alma mater. I met with the other speakers and some current students for dinner before the panel. One formerly homeless man asked me how many times I had spoken and he looked shocked when I said this was my first time. Then I learned the event was being filmed. I suddenly grew really nervous. I didn’t really know what I was going to say. I had printed out the Pendulum article I wrote in the spring and the blog entries I wrote as well, which I thought would help. The truth is I have often doubted whether what I went through was actually homelessness or something else. One of my former professors blatantly told me I had no right to use that term, so speaking about my experience on a panel about homelessness made me feel a bit like a fake. Hearing the stories of the other speakers made me think what I had gone through was not really that intense or tragic, even if it felt that way to me at the time.

When it was my turn, I started with something about invisible homeless and then spoke about what and how it happened last year. I honestly don’t remember what I said afterwards. It was so difficult to say those things in front of my peers, some of which I had classes with last fall. Did I mention the room was packed? People were sitting all around on the floor and near the door. I didn’t know where to look. I finished by saying that what I went through was only a fraction of what the other speakers had been through and could only imagine how much more difficult it would have been had it not been for my friends and church.

There was a short question and answer session after we shared. I was asked what the school said when I told them. I answered by telling her that there wasn’t anything they really could have done but that was an area of improvement for the school.  Another person asked me what kept me going through the experience. I told her that I was plain stubborn and knew that if I didn’t push through, I wouldn’t have graduated. I also mentioned that my faith in Christ was a huge source of hope and comfort as well as solution for my situation.

After the event was over, people came up to me and shook my hand thanking me for sharing. One guy kept saying how “gusty” it was for me to talk about that in front of my classmates “especially at Elon”. The wife of Elon’s president also spoke to me and said she remembered reading my article in the spring and wished me luck in the future. One student gave me a hug and said that my story moved his friends deeply, even though he had dragged them to the event and they had previously made fun of homeless people. It was so reassuring hearing things like that from the audience. I could tell a lot of them were close to tears, although I can’t claim credit for that. This has given me the courage to claim my experience and speak at further events about homelessness.

I haven’t had the courage to watch the video yet, but I believe there is a video in this Pendulum article.

There are two more things I want to mention in this post. (1) Starting a diet and workout regime during Thanksgiving week is probably the worst week of the year to start anything requiring physical activity and calorie counting. #getswole (2) I APPLIED TO GRAD SCHOOL!!! I should begin to hear back from schools mid-December. Let us pray.

Beck

PS: My friend and future brother-in-law, Andrew, started a blog this month. Check it out y’all. He’s super well-read…like, better than me. #jealous

How to be Homeless in College

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I was stranded at my friends apartment last week while NC was in the middle of a snow storm. This reminded me of last semester when I was staying there almost every week because I had no other place to go. I learned a lot about how to go without last semester. Becoming homeless is a process that makes you realize exactly what you do and do not need to live. It’s a painful process.

I started the semester in a small apartment attached to a house nearby campus. The rent wasn’t bad and I had just gotten a job as a barista at the local B&N cafe. After about a month, I moved out because my landlady didn’t want me to keep my cat in her house, and I wanted to live with my cat (don’t judge me).

At the beginning of October, I moved into a house with a student couple, their evil cat, smelly dog, and loud chicken. (Yes, I did say chicken.) I settled in and then…I lost my job. Apparently, my availability was not working for them, even though I told them I could work anytime I wasn’t in class. With no job to pay rent and a new landlord asking for a deposit, I found myself, at the end of the month, moving for the third time that semester…home.

My Mom lives in Raleigh, about an hour from campus, and I had a full schedule with seven classes. I was so scared and I didn’t know what I was doing, but I had no choice but to keep going. For weeks, I woke up at 5:30am so I could drive the hour commute and be on time for my 8am class (and I’m not a morning person in the least). To save gas, I asked my friends if I could alternate sleeping on their couch, but I didn’t want to be a burden, so most of the time I slept in the library or took naps in my car.

I had a system. I would go home every Tuesday and Thursday night to get more clothes and food. I would shower in the gym locker room and do laundry on the weekends when I could stay home. I would work in the library and then drive home to sleep in my room with no bed. And I would student teach and try to finish my projects on time. Part of me knew this meant I wouldn’t be passing all my classes, but I’m nothing if not stubborn, and I thought I was strong enough to do it all.

Okay, so technically I wasn’t homeless, but I was constantly moving between my car, my friends’ apartments and public spaces like the library and gym. I felt homeless, and that anxiety really affected me and my ability to work. I learned how to get through the day by getting “free” coffee from faculty lounges and attending school events with free food. I ate a lot of pizza that semester.

Having no where to go makes one anxious and alone, and I very quickly fell apart. Every single one of my professors emailed me or “had the talk” with me about my low performance (some more than once). What could I say? “Sorry I didn’t finish the paper, Professor, I was busy trying to find somewhere to sleep last night.” I felt tired all the time and it wasn’t from the mountains of work I stayed up doing. I knew I needed to do something about my living situation and fast.

That’s when I remembered that I had been adopted recently. My church has a program that allows families in the church to “adopt” college students so they can get a home-cooked meal, and have a place to stay if they can’t go home for breaks. I emailed my “family” and asked if they knew of anyone that had an extra room to be rented out until May. I received a quick response offering a room in their own house for the year. It felt weird accepting help from people who were essentially strangers, but I wasn’t in a position to say no, and a 30 minute commute is better than an hour commute, so I said yes. I’ve been living here ever since. I won’t say it wasn’t awkward, really awkward, at first, but God has put me in a good home and I’m so grateful that He has provided a place for me to live during my senior year. I hope I can do the same for someone else one day.

What my adopted family did by taking me in reminds me of this passage in Matthew 25.35-40 (NIV)

‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

I was a stranger and they invited me in, and that’s pretty awesome.

Beck

A Stranger Buys Me Tires

Coming in contact with the power and love of God is overwhelming. Having knowledge of His love is one thing, but seeing it in action is a humbling and transformative experience.

I woke up early this morning to drive my sister to work because her car wasn’t starting. On my way back, my front left tire blew violently on the highway just as my gas light came on. I freaked out, put my hazards on, and quickly merged right to get off the road. I felt the adrenaline so fiercely it made my stomach ache. (Ironically enough, Ingrid Michelson’s “Be Ok” was on the radio as this happened.) The first thing I did was email my professor on my phone to tell her that I probably wouldn’t be in class today. Then I texted my sister and Mom to tell them what happened. I closed my eyes, sat in my car and thought about how much money a new tire would cost and how much I couldn’t afford it. I can’t even afford an old used tire. I was on hold with AAA when I saw a brown wagon-sedan pull up behind me. I felt relieved as I hung up the phone and rolled down my window.

He was an older man with a thin face and kind blue eyes. He asked if I had a spare tire that he could put on my car. I said yes and popped the trunk. While he changed my tire we asked each other’s names and a few other questions. His name was Kevin. I told him I was leaving for school today after visiting my sister over the weekend. He told me he was on his way to visit his mother along with a few others who lived in the area. He was driving beside me when my tire blew and saw me pull off the road. He got off the highway and turned around so that he could see if I needed help. I did need help, but he didn’t stop at just putting on the spare. He told me to get off at the next exit because he knew there was a tire shop nearby. I didn’t have my purse with me (or any money anyway) but he said not to worry about it. I couldn’t believe my ears. I thought I had heard him wrong because the cars passing by were so loud and we had to shout to talk. After finding a Tire Kingdom, he bought me two new tires, told me to have a blessed day and left.

Accepting help from a stranger leaves an uncomfortable feeling of helplessness and gratitude. I felt helpless because there was nothing I could do to get myself out of the situation, and because I knew there wasn’t any way I could ever pay him back for his kindness. I felt grateful that someone did stop and help. He didn’t have to go out of his way to help me at all, let alone buy me tires, but he did. All the while, I felt unworthy of his attention and that I didn’t deserve to be so completely taken care of by a stranger. He treated me as if I were part of his family.  I felt God’s love through this experience. I cannot save myself from sin and can never repay Him for His faithfulness and redeeming love. I am grateful He would notice and take care of me, insignificant in the grand scheme of things as I am. God didn’t have to save us; He wanted to because He wanted to be with us, because He loves us. This kind of love is not something you can walk away from, because it changes everything. This morning was an amazing experience to remind me of that.

Kevin Ford is the senior pastor at Belmont Foursquare Church in Belmont, NC and I look forward to visiting him on an upcoming Sunday. If you live in the Charlotte area, I suggest you visit him too.

Beck